Australia’s Tim Cahill (R) fights for the ball with Syria’s Mahmoud Almawas (L) as Australia defeat Syria in their 2018 World Cup football qualifying match played in Sydney on October 10, 2017.
Veteran striker Tim Cahill scored deep into extra time to take Australia a big step closer to next year’s World Cup and end war-torn Syria’s fairytale run in the play-offs on Tuesday.
Cahill, 37, cancelled out Omar al-Soma’s opener in the first half before he leapt to head Australia’s precious second goal in the 109th minute for a 2-1 win in the second leg.
After last week’s 1-1 draw in Malaysia, Australia won 3-2 on aggregate to reach a final play-off against the fourth-placed team from the CONCACAF federation, currently Panama.
Syria have never reached the World Cup and their hopes suffered a massive blow when Mahmoud al-Mawas was sent off for a second bookable offence in the fourth minute of extra time.
As penalties beckoned, Robbie Kruse sent over a cross from the byline and Cahill out-jumped his marker to power a header past the diving Ibrahim Alma.
There was huge drama in the dying seconds when Soma juddered the right post with a vicious free kick. But Australia survived to stay on track for their fourth straight World Cup.